What Does the Future Hold for Online CELTA?
Has Cambridge’s online CELTA model taken off? And how will it adapt in the years to come? We look at its history and some options for the future.
It’s the digital information age; a time of fast internet, fast media and a 24-hour news cycle. Online courses cover just about anything; from dog grooming to commercial cooking, satisfying our need for speed, accessibility and convenience.
Over the past few years, the TEFL market has been saturated by online courses and e-books, each offering varying degrees of training and shady promises of reputability. The CELTA, once considered one of the few courses that could qualify you to teach English, has found itself cast to the wayside by people preferring affordability and convenience.
Sure, the actual training that an online course provides is questionable (more about that here), but that hasn’t halted the explosion of web-based companies. There’s no single regulator controlling these providers, and most are ‘accredited’ by paid, third-party bodies. But, in another testament to our modern day love of fast food and Facebook, most people just want a certificate with their name on it, and a ‘guarantee’ that they’ll be employed.
In 2011, Cambridge launched its response to the growing online trend. CELTA Online Blended was pitched to offer all the same credibility, and none of the extensive time off work.
But, there was just one catch.
Cambridge prides itself on the CELTA’s in-class, real-life teaching practice. It’s the practical element that sets it apart from the rest, and the axis upon which a large chunk of the course revolves. Take that away, and you’re left a completely different certificate.
That’s where the ‘blended’ part comes in.
Cambridge’s solution was to include up to 10 face-to-face teaching sessions at a registered CELTA-providing centre, usually over a 12-week period.
“Many trainees do not always realise that there is a face to face component,” says Claire Potter, Director of Teacher Training in Seville, “[They] are not close enough to Seville to come to the school for the required eight teaching practice sessions, so cannot join.”
If you’re already based in one of the locations, however, (along with Seville, Online Blended is offered in Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Catania, Bournemouth, Istanbul and Melbourne), the one afternoon a week schedule is not too hard to fit in. Likewise, it’s a good option for those on an extended holiday, with a CELTA course on the side.
“[Students take the Online Blended CELTA] due to work commitments; if they are teaching locally and do not have the chance to take a one month intensive course,” adds Potter, “Or due to family commitments, and can juggle a blended learning course whilst still focusing on the family”.
But, for people unable to relocate for a time to an eligible centre, the course falls short. CELTA’s lack of a fully online option means it often loses out to less credible, but more convenient, courses.
This begs the question – will CELTA ever be fully online? And, if so, would it compromise the quality of the course?
“Personally, I feel that there is no replacement for face to face observation and feedback,” says Potter.
To cut out the blended segment of the course, Cambridge has two options: a) give less weight to the certificate, perhaps in a more ‘introductory’ style or, b) tailor it specifically for online teaching.
The world is pretty well connected. With video calling via Skype, learning platforms such as Moodle, social media, email and smartphones, teaching English online is fast claiming a large chunk of the industry. Not only does it allow for teachers and students to interact from home, it also cuts out the middle man. The price for the student is lower, the class one-on-one, and the teacher takes all the profit.
Most online TEFL courses market themselves as a gateway to a life of short hours, cheap cocktails and exotic locations by the beach. But the absence of courses specifically for online teaching leaves a huge gap in the market, and one the CELTA could easily fill.
So – what does the future hold for online CELTA? No change will probably mean that the current option will continue chugging along, neither rising nor falling, yet still a convenient choice for some. But, a move into the fully online market by Cambridge could threaten existing, lesser-accredited modules, and bring the course further into the digital information age.